On September 19, 2022, the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) gathered together for a strategic planning meeting. In a hybrid set-up, 32 members participated in person while 105 members participated online via Zoom. Most of the members via Zoom were women leaders from various provinces.
The meeting started with Dr. Esperanza Cabral, former Secretary of the Dep. of Health and Chair of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law National Implementation Team (NIT) giving an overview of the current political situation and its implications. She mentioned that given the absence of a Secretary of Health almost 4 months into the new administration many barriers to the access of RH services persisted. She ended with a challenge to advocates to persist in the advocacy to ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health, particularly of poor women and youth, are protected and fulfilled.
Christine Balerio of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines shared FPOP’s assessment of the state of the Philippine’s Commitment to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals to the Universal Periodic Review and Voluntary National Review. The FPOP reviews recommended the full implementation of the RH Law and decriminalization of abortion.
Joy Salgado of Likhaan shared the results of a survey designed to identify priority SRHR issues and recommended network actions responded to by 21 organizations. The meeting participants validated the survey results and agreed to support the teen pregnancy prevention bills pending in the House of Representatives and Senate. There was disagreement on the recommendation to support the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court which increases the share in funds of all local government units without earmarks, and shifting advocacy to the local level. The participants agreed to continue discussions on this issue.
Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) presented the proposed anti-domestic violence bills by Sen. Tulfo and Cong. Nograles, These bills proposed to amend the AntiVAWC Law, by among others, including men among the victim-survivors. She presented both the positive and negative provisions. RHAN members were divided on the issue and required further discussions.
Bans Alqaseer of the Young Feminists Collective presented the key provisions of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention bill filed by Cong. Edcel Lagman. The bill has the unanimous support of all RHAN members.
To inform RHAN members of initiatives relevant to the network, Grace Gayoso of Knowledge Success provided an overview of their work on Knowledge Management and the various training and knowledge exchange assistance that they provide. Pastor Vern Compas of the Inter Faith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood also shared his approach to urban farming for economic and environmental sustainability and offered training partnership.
At the end of the discussion, RHAN members agreed to pursue advocacy on 3 priority issues: Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, particularly Teen Pregnancy Reduction and Comprehensive Sexuality Education; full implementation of the RPRH Law and Divorce. Participants also agreed to strengthen the network’s advocacy capacities through further discussions on divorce, feminist care and digital security and further skills training in communications, policy advocacy, leadership, and NGO accountability. A major agreement was to hold a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the RPRH Law.
To close the meeting and planning, Judy Miranda of Partido Manggagawa urged RHAN advocates to be vigilant, conscientious and courageous in pushing RHAN’s agenda to reality.